I have been working from home since about 2002 and have always had a home office. I make a living at helping writers with their nonfiction writing: books, blogs, newsletters. So I’ve always been writing in some capacity from home. Yet one thing I haven’t quite mastered is the art of designing a distraction free writing space. Kids, dogs, husband, life…all of these things can and do get in the way of my writing.
Let’s start with the kids… I have 3 children. Three girls to be exact and they are like stair steps. The first two are 20 months apart and the second and third are 16 months apart. As many of you parents “get” all three of my children are very, very different and needed very different things from me as a mother. My oldest is considered “gifted” and needed a lot of academic engagement to keep her busy. My middle daughter is on the autism spectrum and needed a lot of attention to keep her focused and on task, and my third daughter (well she was the mischievous one:). She’s my musical one. Always into something like my pots and pans, the piano, the drums. Always making noise.
The girls are older now and don’t need me in the same way as they did when I started my business, but there are still always distractions. Homework help. Activities galore! Someone is always calling from school because they forgot homework or they forgot their lunch money. My tip for cutting down on “kid” distractions is this:
1. If you’re children are young and are at home with you, it is worth the investment to hire a babysitter for 2 hours, close the door to your office, and write without distraction. Make sure to give the sitter instructions on possible “situations” that may come up so that he/she doesn’t have to run to you every time there is a fire to put out.
2. If you’re children are older (school aged), then it’s time that they learn that your writing is a job and that you need to concentrate in order to do a good job. By explaining to my kids that they can ask their father to slice an apple for them instead of me all the time, I cut down on a lot of writing distractions from inside my home. The tip here is to defer tasks for a couple of hours to older children or to another parent in the home. The house will still be there when you open the door 2 hours later:)
Okay the dogs. That’s why I have that picture up top on this post. I’ve just recently purchased this dog silencer and I’m praying that it’s going to work because if my dogs (2 Aussie Labradoodles) are not quietly laying by me in my office, they are barking downstairs in the porch or outside. Now while I don’t mind that the dogs hang out with me, I can’t have this the entire working day. They have to pee. They have to eat. They have to play. They need to walk and run outside. All of these little “breaks” are distractions for me. It’s easier for me if they stay a portion of the day in our enclosed porch where their food is, beds, and a doggie door for going outside. If only they wouldn’t bark.
So my tip around this is to keep trying. Try different things so that both you and your dogs are comfortable and happy. I haven’t received this device yet, so I can’t tell you if it’s going to work, but I’m not giving up until I get the distraction free writing area I need!
Finally – the husband. You may be writing your first book and your spouse doesn’t totally get it. Or maybe you’re like me and your husband also is an entrepreneur and you both work from home. Most writers I know get in a “zone” at some point during the writing process, and nothing destroys the zone like someone calling upstairs “Hey what are we having for dinner?” (That’s my husband talking by the way:)
I let this go on for a very long time until I finally decided to create a boundary around working at home. I told him simply that when the door to the office is closed that means that I am working and should not be disturbed. When it’s open feel free to chat with me about whatever. That worked like a charm! So my tip for this issue is to set boundaries and stick to them!
Additional Distraction Free Writing Tips:
1. Turn ringer off of your home phone
2. Put your cell phone in another room on vibrate
3. Close shades on windows that face busy streets or busy neighbors homes
4. Put pets in another area in the home while you are in your office
5. Don’t start cooking a major meal you have to check on when you’re about to write
6. Use writing apps that strongly encourage you to get your writing done
7. Write at the same time with a virtual accountability buddy. Check in when finished for the day. (You can easily find a buddy in a Facebook or Goodreads writing group)
8. When all else fails go to Starbucks or the library to write:) Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!